Once was enough. Twice is a bit too much and I hope I won’t have to live this again. Cause once more, I am watching a target and Rage is seething beside me.
“Is it time?” he asks for the millionth time.
“Not yet, brother.”
I am as anxious as he is but this has to be done right, quickly and efficiently. That third brother has spawned from the same bad seed as the other two and he seems to be aware that his brothers are dead. He has upped his security and never stays alone for too long.
We have been tracking him for a week and he has used every method available to make our life difficult but between me and Stig he was fighting a lost cause. We have discovered a hole in his schedule. Every day, for less than an hour he ditches his bodyguards and takes every precaution, including identical cars, so that he can come to a house in the suburbs.
Stig says the house is one of the hundred he seems to own but it’s one of the few that are not occupied. It’s a typical suburban house and even the car he uses is a typical soccer mum car. He even has a gardener take care of the bushes growing outside. What the hell?
He never stays long, just a quick stop and then he rushes out of the house to meet his guards. So far he hasn’t changed his schedule, so that means we have gone unnoticed.
“We’ll do it there,” I say to Rage. “We’ll get inside the house and ambush him.”
I look up through the restaurant window. Everyday a new restaurant in the city, some diners, some expensive hotel ones. He changes his routine all the time. Everything but that house. Does he have a family there? We have never seen anyone get out or in. Just him and some groceries. It’s the only constant in his day. That and the club he owns but that place was turned into a fortress.
I check my watch. In an hour he will take that ridiculous car and drive up the to the suburbs. This time he will find more than he bargained for.
“Today is the day, brother!”
His grin is the scariest thing I have ever seen and I have been to war. He has been on edge all these days, sniffing his victim but not hunting. And being away from Iris hasn’t helped. I share a room with him to keep him in check and I barely sleep by his mumbling. He spends half the night whispering his Valkyrie's name and the other on the phone with her.
I get him. I don’t get much sleep either away from Tamie. I find peace only in her arms and away from her I feel vulnerable once more. She has pushed me to tell her about this mission as if she knew that it was about her but I spared her. When it’s done, I’ll let her know that all the men that hurt her got what was coming to them.
I take my phone to call Vince that is watching the place we are about to enter.
“Nothing changed. No movement inside, no lights, no one at the windows,” Vince reports.
“We are coming your way. We are doing this today.”
“Fucking finally! I miss Valhalla and the studio.”
“You miss the bitches sucking your dick,” I chuckle.
“Of course I do! Let’s get this over with so I can go back having my dick worshipped.”
“Meet you there, asshole,” I shake my head.
Leave it to Vince to think of his dick at a time like this. I put my phone away and I look at Rage. The motherfucker is grinning and I don’t see my brother anymore. The Hellhound is out and I hate being in a car locked with that animal. Only thing to keep him in check is blood. So, I start the car and drive to our hunting grounds.
Not long after, we meet Vince. He has checked the perimeter and he is sure no one is watching the house. There is no way to know if anyone is in. The windows are sealed and blackened with a film but he says he can’t hear a noise from inside.
“How are we doing this?” Vince gives me the permission to run point.
“We wait till he comes and is in. Rage and I go through the back, you stay here and watch if someone comes out this way.”
I reach for my bag and grab some comms. First time I asked the Riders to use them, they made fun of me. You need to be on an actual battlefield to know the value of communication between troops. But after that shit with the drug lord who wanted in on our territory, they never questioned me again. Preparation like this can give us the upper hand.
I guide Rage in the back. We have scouted the place and I know the perfect spot we can hide without anyone noticing us. Rage is barely holding it together and I need to remind him to keep still a little while longer. I try to give myself the same advice.
All this time, watching that son of a bitch, I barely kept it together. That is a man that dared touch my Tamie, a defenseless girl. All that I have prepared for him is never going to be enough. I will take him out and then I will go back to her, tell her that all the men that hurt her are gone, that she is safe, with me, by my side.
I smile to myself thinking of her. I can’t fucking wait to make her my wife, see her come to me dressed in white. I know she would love a beach wedding.
My happy thoughts are interrupted by Vince’s voice through the comm.
“He’s here. He carries a heavy bag. Be careful.”
I check my gun and turn to Rage. He has refused to take one, trusting only his knives. As soon as he heard Vince, he fisted them both and now looks at me expectedly.
“I go first to clear, OK, brother?”
He clenches his jaw but after a while, he nods. It’s hard for him to follow orders in this state but he does and I am thankful. I nod and then cross the small backyard swiftly. It’s well protected by tall, thick bushes so I don’t worry about neighbors seeing two armed men in a suburban backyard. Last thing we need is the police.
I go at the back door and listen carefully. Nothing. Stig has found the plans for the house at the City Hall and it shows that behind this, there is a small room, probably functioning as a pantry to the adjacent kitchen but we can’t be sure.
I silently shoot the lock and push the door open. I hear noises on the other side of the house. He is in. I beckon at Rage to follow me and he does. The pantry is empty and the door to the kitchen is open. The kitchen itself seems unused and has amassed dust. He clearly doesn’t live here, or anyone else.
I sign Rage to have my back while I turn left to the entrance hall. Empty. I glance at the living room to my right and I see that it too is bare. There is a floor upstairs and a big basement. I glue my back to the wall of the entrance and sign Rage to stand still.
I open my ears wide to make sure I get even the slightest whiff of noise so we know where to go. Nothing. It’s as if we are alone in here. Where the fuck did he go? I don’t like this. And just when I am about to suggest to Rage that we split up, I hear a clicking sound coming from downstairs.
I signal to Rage and he tightens his knives. I don’t like this.
“Heading to the basement,” I inform whispering into the comm.
“Copy that,” Vince answers.
The door to the stairs down is open and I linger on the top of them to take the place in. Silence once more. I go down with making any noise and Rage follows my lead. At the bottom, there is a reinforced door that was supposed to be shut but the lock was not in place. That was the clicking sound. Seems that luck was on our side.
I turn to Rage that is wearing his monstrous mask and shakes with anticipation. Last time we stalked one of the brothers, we found a torment room on the other side. And if I am to judge by all that secrecy, I fear we are about to face the same thing here.
I push the door and slip inside. There is a plastic sheet covering that side of the room but I see light on the other side and someone move. He is on the phone. I signal Rage to hold.
“For that kind of money, I would of course make it happen,” Jo says into the phone. “I mean, I knew you liked them young but this was tough...”
I move closer to the plastic sheet. All the light is on the other side so I am sure the shadows hide us.
“I am in the safe house right now and will meet you at the known location. It’s a good thing we got a lot of desert around here, right?” Jo pauses. “When I see the deposit. No one will look for him, don’t worry,” he chuckles. “Let’s say that there isn’t a soul alive to care for him. He will be all yours.”
And that’s when I hear the most chilling noise I have ever heard. My blood turns into ice and I shake in anger and fear. I turn to Rage and I see it in his bloody eyes that he heard it too. A baby’s cry.
I lose it completely. The idea that... I push the plastic sheet and I raise my gun to the asshole that looks at me with the most stupid expression. I take my surroundings though there is not much to see. There is a bed and a camera set at the foot of it. And on the wall all kinds of torturing equipment. On the other wall there are three doors with heavy locks and hatches at the bottom.
I focus on the man. He is standing at a bar with his phone wedged between his head and shoulder and has a camera in his hands. I look at where the camera is turned. On the bar, there is a naked baby boy crying his lungs out. Can’t be more than 9 months old.
Behind me Rage emerges and growls. Though I am the one pointing a gun at him, that asshole looks at Rage and gasps, his phone falling on the floor. He is right to be scared. I just decided I am pulling out of the race. I will leave him to the Hellhound.
We both move in sync before he has the chance to go for the gun I see lying on the bar. Rage falls on him and takes him down on the floor with one forceful punch. I go for the baby, taking it off the cold counter and pulling him into my cut. He stops crying instantly.
Rage is beyond coherent, human talk. He growls loudly, gets up and grabs the man by the throat. While he carries him to the bed, I kneel and take the phone that is on the floor. The motherfucker on the other side calls for Jon.
“What the fuck is going on?” He asks when I put the phone on my ear.
“I am coming for you,” I growl and the line goes dead.
I put the phone in my back pocket and make a mental note to ask Stig to trace that call. I am not fucking around. Whoever was on the other side has paid for this baby to do god knows what with.
I look down at my arms and I see that the baby looks at me with huge blue-grey eyes. It has stopped screaming and just takes me in, examining my face. An overwhelming feeling comes over me and drowns me completely.
I can’t take my eyes off that boy and we stay locked like that for a while. I extend one finger at him and he is quick to grab it and squeeze tight. He is a fighter that’s for sure. What a Rider he will make! What?
The thought comes at me like a cannonball but I take it. As the baby holds me tighter and coos, I know I am not giving him up. I heard Jo and I know that whoever took care of him is long gone. He is not going in the system, he is coming with me to Valhalla.
“No, no, no!” Jo’s pleas burst the bubble I was in.
I turn and Rage has tied him to the bed and is leaning over him. I can’t see what he is doing but I don’t care right now. I got more important things to do right now.
Rage looks up with his face splattered with blood. But it’s the smile on his face that gets me. Instinctively, I tighten my grip around the baby to protect him. I will protect him forever.
“You good here?” I ask Rage.
He says nothing, just grins and narrows his eyes. He is more than good, he needs this. I don’t, not anymore. I nod to him and turn down to my precious cargo.
“Check the doors,” I tell him beckoning at the padded doors and I go up the stairs. “Vince, I am coming out, don’t shoot my ass,” I let the man know.
“Copy that. All clear out here.”
I go out and I thank god we are not on our bikes here. I go for the SUV Vince is in and he comes out before I get there.
“What the fuck is that?”
“A fucking baby, Vince. What des it look like?”
“Ha, I am good at the making-baby process but with the results? Not so hot on those.”
“Rage is still in.”
“I need to get that baby... Well, baby shit. Milk and diapers. And a car seat.”
Vince looks at me with a question on his face.
“I am taking this baby back, Vince.”
“OK, man. Your funeral.”
“Wait for Rage. I am going back.”
“You sure you want to ride on your own? It’s a long drive.”
I look down at two big, shining eyes.
“I won’t be alone.”